The genome sequence of the Japanese gecko (Gekko japonicus) is described this week in Nature Communications. This study, which presents the largest sequenced genome of any reptile to date, pin points genes associated with geckos’ remarkable ability to climb on smooth surfaces, regenerate their tail and see nocturnally.
Xiaosong Gu and colleagues perform whole-genome sequencing of an adult male gecko and obtain a 2.55 billion base genome sequence, comprising over 22,487 genes for which they identify the location and function. They find evidence that increase in size of the beta keratin gene family is involved in the formation of adhesive setae (fine toe hairs allowing the animal to catch prey and stick to smooth surfaces). They study the evolution of genes associated with tail regeneration and identify specific genes (known as opsin genes) relating to these animals’ transition from a diurnal to a nocturnal lifestyle.
The results provide insights into the evolutionary history of geckos and may also aid the development of bio-inspired adhesive technologies, as well as informing our understanding of the genetic basis of regenerative processes.